Thera: Archaeologists Sets up Its Long Disputed Date on the Volcanic Eruption in Santorini, Greece

The Greek island of Santorini, once known as Thera, had one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in the Holocene epoch, as measured by the amount of material expelled.

It is regarded as a watershed moment in the Aegean and East Mediterranean prehistory, with the city of Akrotiri, buried some 1,600 years before Pompeii, becoming one of the most important archaeological sites of the second millennium BCE.

Greek volcano mystery

(Photo : Toby Elliott/Unsplash)

Archeologists in the early twentieth century proposed that the volcano erupted approximately 1500 BCE, during the Egyptian New Kingdom period, and built a history around this hypothesis, as per ScienceDaily.

However, since the 1970s, breakthroughs in radiocarbon dating have thrown that timeframe into disarray, with many scientists claiming the eruption occurred up to 100 years earlier.

Sturt Manning, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Classical Archaeology at the College of Arts and Sciences, hopes to resolve one of contemporary archaeology’s long-standing disagreements.

By analyzing the available evidence and combining it with cutting-edge statistical research, he has narrowed the range of dates for the eruption to around 1609 to 1560 BCE, during Egypt’s prior Second Intermediate Period, when the Hyksos (a Canaanite-origin dynasty) ruled Lower Egypt.

While there is no specific date, to the year, for determining the right historical period, the discovery resolves many years of discussion.

This has been the single most debated date in Mediterranean history for over 40 years, said Manning, director of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory, to the point where people just say, there’s an issue here, we can’t fix it, let’s go on.

Manning compares the Thera eruption to climbing Mount Everest, a goal he has desired to take on since early in his career.

With the increased sophistication of Bayesian statistical analysis, accurate dating of the event has become more feasible in recent years, enabling chronological modeling that can integrate massive amounts of data and archaeological observations to better define the probageological and archaeological studies.

An often-expressed fear that volcanic carbon dioxide emissions might have tainted organic samples from Thege+ and produced inaccurate age estimations has been the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Manning recognized last spring that he could address the problem by searching hundreds of kilometers away from Thera, to places in the Aegean Sea that had tsunami impacts as a result of the eruption.

Manning used the dates from these incidents in his model to test for and dismiss the volcanic carbon dioxide caveat.

On Thera itself, he also noticed the relevance of a brief but clearly observable gap in time between the abandonment of the settlement at Akrotiri and the major eruption, and he integrated this previously missed limitation into the models.

The most plausible dates for the eruption were found as being between approximately 1609-1560 BCE (95.4% likelihood) or between about 1606-1589 BCE (68.3% probability).

The new timeline seamlessly integrates the civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean even while ruling out many ancillary theories, such as the idea that the Thera eruption was responsible for the annihilation of Minoan palaces on the coast of Crete, as proposed by Spyridon Marinatos, the first excavator of Akrotiri, in 1939.

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That doesn’t appear to be the case, according to Manning. Because the devastation levels on Crete appear to be up to a century later when we date them.

Ifestia Festival

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, Santorini’s “Ifestia Festival” or “Volcanoes Festival” returned on September 18, 2022, as per Greek Reporter.

A stunning display of pyrotechnics and fires prompted the volcano to “erupt” once more in a recreation of the true volcanic explosion that produced Santorini, and the photographs obtained were more spectacular and captivating than ever.

The re-enactment of the volcanic eruptions began at 8:00 p.m. around sunset. This was once again a one-of-a-kind sight for locals and tourists to Santorini and Thirasia.

The Santorini volcano is one of the world’s largest underwater active volcanoes, and it’s possibly the only one whose caldera touches the sea.

Its most powerful eruption happened some 3,600 years ago, during the Minoan Bronze Age. During the devastating volcanic eruption, the whole center of the circular island was buried in the water.

 The eruption caused a tidal surge that swept away the advanced civilization of Minoan Crete, which was approximately seventy miles south of Santorini.

The massive amount of pumice produced during the volcanic eruption covered a significant portion of the sea’s surface and washed ashore to higher heights by the tsunami created by the eruption.

Pieces of pumice that appear to have floated to the sea’s surface were discovered in most of the Aegean’s surrounding locations.

Related article: Philippines’ Taal Volcano Erupts, Sends Thousands to Flee

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